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Governance groups consider dispute resolution, bylaws revisions, hardship funds

By Kimber Williams and Maria M. Lameiras | Emory Report | Feb. 10, 2015

University Senate

The University Senate received updates on two ongoing campus initiatives — the Research Administration Services (RAS) program and Health Emory campaign — at its Jan. 27 meeting.

Kathleen Bienkowski, associate vice president of Research Administration Services (RAS), discussed the rollout of Research Administration Service Centers at Emory. Guided by the Office of Business Practices Improvement (BPI), the project is intended to streamline the administration and processing of research grants.

Since launching in 2013, Emory now has five RAS units that are operational throughout campus, including sites at Cancer and Imaging, Rollins School of Public Health, the Department of Medicine, the Department of Pediatrics, and Basic Sciences, covering about 60 percent of the university’s research volume, Bienkowski reported.

Plans call for five more units to be launched in 2015 to serve Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Surgery, Psych-Neuro, Hospital Specialties, Emory College of Arts and Sciences and remaining schools and units, as well as plans to integrate the School of Nursing into the RAS structure, she said.

Michael Staufacker, director of Health Management for Human Resources Administration, and April Flint, assistant athletics director for recreation and Play Emory, also presented an update on Healthy Emory, an initiative intended to engage Emory’s workforce in the pursuit of and participation in healthy lifestyles.

Flint reported that the Healthy Emory Steering Committee has completed a comprehensive strategic plan establishing four key areas of influence: environment, culture, community and resources.

A new Healthy Emory Coordinating Committee has been charged with implementing that plan, which is dedicated to creating and sustaining a culture of wellbeing at Emory.

In other reports, Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) President Ely Goldberg presented an overview of GSGA goals, which include determining how graduate students fit into the broader Emory community and raising awareness of the diversity of programs and people.

Law School Professor Julie Seaman also presented the names of six individuals who have been nominated to receive honorary degrees from Emory.

In closing remarks, Provost Claire Sterk noted that for the first time ever, total applications to Emory University’s undergraduate programs have surpassed 20,000 for the Class of 2019.

That trend marks an important milestone, she said, especially at a time when high school populations are shrinking. Sterk acknowledged the “tremendous work” of the Office of Undergraduate Admission in the task of selecting students from that growing pool.

Sterk also discussed an invitation from the Association of American Universities  (AAU) to participate in a student survey on sexual violence. After much discussion, it was decided that Emory would instead conduct its own campus survey, which will be expanded to include students, faculty and staff.

President James Wagner announced that work is underway to fill several leadership positions on campus, including the executive vice president for health affairs; president and CEO of Emory Healthcare; and director of athletics and recreation. A search is also underway for a new Campus Life position, assistant vice president for community.

Wagner observed that Emory is in the 10th year of its 10-year Strategic Plan, adding that the university would be sharing accomplishments under that plan. He also noted that he would be meeting with an advocacy group to discuss policies addressing undocumented students.

The Senate then went into a special closed session, to consider proposed revisions to Senate bylaws pertaining to the voting privileges of its members, the functions of the Senate, and processes for holding limited sessions.

The proposed revisions were recommended by a review group approved by the Senate, which included representatives of the faculty, students and staff, with advisors from the general counsel's office, according to University Senate President Kathryn Yount.

The session included discussion over a proposed change to the functions section of the Senate bylaws, to clarify that the Senate "shall may consider and make recommendations on all any matters of general university interest, [and] review all any changes in existing policy..."

The purpose of these revisions was to clarify that the Senate has the authority to make recommendations on such matters to the President and Board of Trustees, but it is not obligated to review all such matters and university policies.

After open discussion, the Senate voted to recommend all revisions, Yount said. The proposed changes will be reviewed by the University Board of Trustees for approval and reconciliation with the University Bylaws. The president of the Senate will report back to the Senate on the Board's decision.

Faculty Council

At a Jan. 20 meeting, the Faculty Council approved the creation of a Standing Committee on Faculty Dispute Resolution, which would help provide informal mediation services and training in conflict resolution for Emory faculty.

The vote followed recommendations presented by Sheryl Heron, professor of emergency medicine, and Michael Sacks, associate professor in the practice of organization and management, who co-chair a special committee approved last semester to explore the creation of a process for faculty to address and resolve interpersonal conflicts and organizational challenges.

In developing its recommendation, Heron said the special committee spent several months assessing the demand for mediation training among Emory faculty — they report that it is high — and studying how faculty conflicts are handled across schools.

The standing committee’s mission will be to “assist faculty with resolving conflicts that arise from everyday work life before these conflicts become formal grievances,” according to the report.

Their proposal endorses:

  • Creation of the standing committee, a faculty-led body imbedded within faculty governance structures that promotes transformative culture change.
  • Appointment of a committee chair who is a certified faculty mediator with extensive experience conducting mediations with Emory faculty, along with at least two other “faculty neutrals” who would provide voluntary, informal mediation services to qualifying cases.
  • Trainings for faculty members on what mediation services are provided as well as strategies to address conflicts before they escalate.
  • Mediation certification, offered through an outside vendor, for faculty and leaders in academic units.

In other presentations, the council heard updates from Emory College of Arts and Sciences (ECAS) and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Kristin Wendland, director of undergraduate studies and senior lecturer in music theory, reported that ECAS faculty members are considering proposed bylaws revisions that would:

  • Replace GovCom with a College Senate comprised of 23 voting and seven non-voting members;
  • Reform standing committees;
  • Reduce meetings to twice yearly and change format and quorum;
  • Revise the appeals process for committee and senate decisions.

Meetings are scheduled Feb. 11 and Feb. 18 for faculty to discuss and vote on the changes, Wendland reported.

Angela Amar, associate professor and assistant dean for BSN education at the School of Nursing, presented updates in strategic plan initiatives, a branding retreat, new program and curriculum revisions, efforts to enhance diversity, and Ebola education opportunities.

The council also heard reports from Eric Weeks, Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of physics, and Pamela Scully, assistant vice provost of academic innovation and director of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, who discussed their experiences as faculty counselors on Emory Board of Trustees committees.

Kathryn Young gave an update on University Promotion and Tenure (UPT) Review. To date, a task force has reviewed 15 peer institutions and drafted and presented basic principles and processes that would enhance faculty governance in UPT reviews.

The next step will be to develop a vision for a revised UPT process “that enhances faculty governance based on a core set of guiding principles,” she says.

Provost Claire Sterk discussed new faculty seminars that will be offered to Emory trustees at their February board meeting. Nine Emory professors will present a series of educational sessions to provide the experience of “what it is like to be a learner, to be exposed to different ways in which faculty can teach, to get a sense of what it takes to prepare a class,” she said.

The second part of the seminar will focus on “the value of the topic being discussed, what’s the social impact, how does it contribute to the public good, how does it link to public scholarship?”

In closing, President James Wagner said that he looks forward to engaging in  future conversations about freedom of expression and speech “and what it means to exercise responsible freedom of expression.”

Employee Council

The Emory Employee Council (EEC) is considering a proposal to establish a Tier II program of the Emory Employee Hardship Fund (EHF) to help a greater number of Emory employees in times of need.

As of Jan. 15, the EHF has received $148,426 in donations and awarded $84,731 in funds for employees who have experienced a catastrophic event that prevents the employee from meeting basic living expenses, according to information presented at the Employee Council’s Jan. 21 meeting.

Because of the narrow definition allowed for disbursement of funds, the EEC EHF committee is considering expanding the program to cover emergencies that may not fit the definition of catastrophic events, but leave employees with emergency needs.

Aaronette Jackson, who administers the EHF for the EEC, says the committee has received 316 applications for aid, 187 of which were ineligible for consideration because of the eligibility definition. Another 47 applicants withdrew their applications, and of the 82 applications reviewed by the committee, 67 were approved.

“We want to be able to help those employees who are in need, but who may not be eligible under the current definition,” Jackson said.

Also at the January meeting:

  • Leon Haley, executive associate dean of clinical services for Grady Memorial Hospital and associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory University, made a presentation on Emory’s role at Grady, including education of medical residents, research, and patient care by Emory faculty.
  • Officers Marvin Poulson and Darrell Johnson with Emory Police Community Relations and Crime Prevention introduced the Coffee with a Cop program. The program allows Emory police and community members to come together in an informal setting to discuss community issues, build relationships and drink coffee. The program is available to come to any office on campus by contacting Darrell Johnson at 404-727-5662 or djohns9@emory.edu.
  • The Spring University Town Hall Meeting will be held on April 15 from noon until 2 p.m. Details to be announced later.
  • The EEC will sponsor a Talent Showcase at Emory Staff Fest in May. Those interested in performing can contact Koya Alford at knalfor@emory.edu for more details.